March 17, 2016

EXTRA! Montana Newspaper Stories 1864-1922: Bison Recovery and Protection

As early as the 1830s, explorers in the American West began to predict the eventual extermination of bison (B. b. bison). In time, conservationists, including wild game hunters, sought legislation to protect bison herds. Ranchers like Michel Pablo and Charles Allard also attempted to save the wild bison. Some herds were relocated to Canada, while others migrated to Yellowstone National Park.

Key dates

1872—In an effort to protect the herds, the territorial legislature establishes an annual bison-hunting season, running from February to mid-August.
1874—The U.S. Congress passes HR921, which prohibited the "useless slaughter" of bison within U.S. territories. President Grant refuses to sign the bill.
1894—The National Park Protective Act imposes penalties for poaching in national parks.
1895–1901—Montana counties appoint game wardens to enforce hunting laws.
1909—More than 18,000 acres on the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana are designated The National Bison Range.

From the newspapers

To find more

Search the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases: bison, buffalo, preservation, american bison society, yellowstone national park, national park protective act, samuel walking coyote, michel pablo, charles allard, pablo-allard herd

Written by Catherine W. Ockey

March 16, 2016

News from the MHS Research Center - March 2016

by Molly Kruckenberg, Research Center Director

A monthly report of cool new (and sometimes old) collections, reference resources, and projects that you might be interested in.

Newly Processed Materials Available for Use:

In the Photograph Archives, we have acquired and processed an oversize photographic print of Marysville showing the town and mining buildings.  The names of mining claims, including the Drumlummon, are superimposed onto the print.

Newly Received Collections (not yet processed, but available for use):

The Archives recently received a collection from the Backcountry Horsemen of Montana. The collection contains material spanning back to its creation in 1973 in the Flathead. This local organization, the first of its kind, later joined with similar organizations in Idaho and other surrounding states to create the Backcountry Horsemen of America. The papers include material from the original Flathead Valley Chapter, the statewide organization, the national organization, as well as papers from chapters in surrounding states. The collection also includes a number of photographs.

Collections Currently Being Processed:

David Cogley donated a self-published copy of his Vietnam journal.  He served in Vietnam from 1969-1970 in the 101st Airborne, and wrote his journal shortly after returning home.  Recently, he resurrected the work and has created bound copies for distribution.   Aside from oral histories, the Research Center has very few primary docs concerning Montana veterans’  Vietnam experiences.

Some Neat Things We’ve Been Working On:

  • The new Montana History Compass, replacing the Montana History Wiki, is now available for use!  Take a look at the revised site, which includes a sortable and filter-able data set of all of the newspaper held on microfilm.
  • Arriving soon, the Montana Newspaper repository will allow for improved access to nearly 300,000 pages of Montana newspapers not available on Chronicling America!  Look for the public release around the middle of this month.

Cool Things We’ve Used from the Collections:

A patron question prompted us to look for information on business communications being written in code.  After careful searching of the catalog and Archives West we found 2 books that we have that deal with this topic.  In the early 1900's businesses used telegrams to communicate important information quickly.  Telegrams could get expensive because you were charged by the word.  The code books were created by specific industries to code common phrases and numbers so that longer messages could be communicated in fewer words.  One of the books includes a letter that was sent to a company and included the name of the code book used along with a list of locally created codes that they would use in their communication.  An example from McNeill's Code shows the phrase I estimate the ore in sight to amount to 36450 tons and to have an approximate value of $400,000.  This could be communicated by 3 cipher words: Imminebant, Esfumacao, Zeitparole.  Imminebant is decoded to I (we) estimate the ore in sight to amount to ____ tons and have an approximate value of _____.  The other 2 words decode to the values that were listed above.

The Library has McNeill's Code (1908 edition) and Broomhall's The Imperial Combination Code for Mining, Company Promoting, Financial and Stock Exchange Purposes from 1913.  We also have some telegraphic codes from the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in the MC 169 collection.

March 10, 2016

Montana Frank and the Wild West Show

by Molly Kruckenberg, Research Center Director

Montana Frank Shows, poster,
printed by the American Show Print
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, c.1910.
The MHS Research Center recently acquired the “Montana Frank” poster shown here.  As part of our acquisition process, we research potential contributions to ensure they fit within our collecting mission.  Sometimes the stories behind the items we acquire are as interesting or more interesting than the items themselves; that is the case with this poster.

“Montana” Frank McCray’s story reads like fiction – and some of it very well may be.  Known variously as Montana Frank, Colonel McCray, and Montana McCray, his life was as varied as his name.  Reportedly born in 1864 in the area that became Butte, long before the town was the “richest hill on earth,” Montana Frank variously reported that he was a scout for the Army at Fort Shaw, rode for the Pony Express, ranched near Wolf Creek, performed as a roper and rider in Wild West shows, wrote cowboy music, and mined in Idaho.

The son (again, reportedly) of Army Major Lyman F. McCray and Rosella Fanner (also seen as Rosellia Tanner), Frank spent his youth in Montana.  While many of his activities are undocumented in contemporary sources, later biographical newspaper articles provide self-reported details of his early life in Montana Territory.   As a child he moved to Fort Shaw with his family and, upon his father’s death when he was 17, he moved to Helena with his mother.  Shortly thereafter he returned to Fort Shaw, where he worked as a government scout.  At the age of 19 he married Elaine Powers of Helena. 

Montana Frank’s claim to fame is the time he spent performing in “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of the Rough Riders of the World” show.  From about 1893 until about 1899 Montana Frank was a roper and rider in the show.  He performed with the show in 1893 when it set up an independent exhibition near the Chicago World’s Fair.  After leaving Buffalo Bill Cody’s show, he continued performing with the Keith-Orpheum vaudeville circuits. 

Stevens Point Daily Journal,
Stevens Point, Wisconsin,
July 26, 1917.
Wild West shows were immensely popular in the United States and abroad from the 1880s until the 1930s.  In addition to Buffalo Bill’s show, popular shows included the Miller Brother’s 101 Ranch Wild West Show and Doc Carver’s Wild West show.  These shows and scores of others toured around the United States as well as in Europe and Australia.

Sometime around 1910 Montana Frank attempted to organize his own Wild West show.  Evidence has been found of shows being performed in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Montana Frank had posters printed to advertise his show.  The MHS Research Center’s recently acquired Montana Frank Show poster is dated 1910 and was printed by the American Show Print in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

Montana Frank lived the last decades of his life in Grangeville, Idaho, with his second wife Grace.  One of his later past-times was to write cowboy songs and melodies.  He passed away in Idaho in 1959.

“’Montana’ Frank L. McCray in front of log cabin,” Courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West, P.320.286.  (link to their online version of the image at
(Used with Permission)

• “Man Born in Butte in 1864, Frank McCray, Dies in Idaho.”  Montana Standard, April 5, 1959.
• “Montana Frank McCray, Last of Buffalo Bill Scouts, is Found Living in Salmon River Wilds.”  Helena Daily Independent.  April 11, 1938. 
• Russell, Don.  The Wild West; or, A history of the Wild West shows, being an account of the prestigious, peregrinatory pageants pretentiously presented before the citizens of the Republic, the crowned heads of Europe, and multitudes of awe-struck men, women, and children around the globe, which created a wonderfully imaginative and unrealistic image of the American West. [Fort Worth]: [Amon Carter Museum of Western Art], [1970].
• “Melodic Gift is ‘God-Given:’ Montana Frank McCray, last of Scouts and Frontiersman, Writes Songs.”  The Spokesman-Review.  August 1, 1937.
• “Last Buffalo Bill Scout, at 73, Finds Nature, Unmarred, Best.”  The Spokesman-Review.  July 11, 1937.
• Freeborn County Standard, Albert Lea, Minnesota, August 31, 1916.
• Advertisement, Stevens Point Daily Journal, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, July 26, 1917.